This Week's Rankings

Goodbye to Stanford Stadium
by Jeff Anderson
(published the week of Nov. 21, 2005)

I'm sure Stanford's new stadium will probably be nice, but it won't have any historic feel (or any history); it won't be one of the great, huge stadiums; and it will cost a lot of needless money to build.  It will have an NFL-style design, with a square configuration and two levels, far different from the beautiful Rose Bowl-style design that the longtime stadium more closely approximated.  And it will feature artificial field turf (the new kind that looks and feels more like grass), even though Dan Fouts says the stadium's grass playing surface was about the most perfect surface on which he ever played.  To me, that changing of the playing surface embodies this entire project:  replacing something great but needing upkeep with something not as appealing.

Stanford could have done what USC did with the Los Angeles Coliseum:  take out the track; shift the field toward one end, thereby effectively bringing many (or maybe most) seats closer to the game; and cover up the seats in the opposite end zone.  But it didn't.  When, during the Big Game broadcast on Saturday, Bill Walsh irreverently, and almost gleefully, spoke of how the stadium in which the game was being played would, within a matter of days, "be gone," I felt sort of nauseous.  The old stadium deserves so much better, and Walsh's NFL mentality is best kept at a distance from the college game.

When I walked toward the Rose Bowl earlier this season for the Washington-UCLA game, I not only appreciated the Rose Bowl's tremendous beauty (complete with its golf course parking lot, lending lush green to the landscape) but also its history.  I actually thought of my grandpa making the same walk 75 years earlier (1930) to see a game in the same stadium.  To me, that is meaningful—as is Stanford Stadium's having hosted countless Stanford games across eight decades, and such events as the Super Bowl, World Cup and Olympic soccer, and, of much less universal but still greater personal interest, my sister's graduation.  Americans' disrespect for history, mixed with their perpetual materialist demand for all things new, is not an attractive trait in my eyes.  This mentality, to which (along with many other unfortunate ones) modern-day Stanford has too willingly fallen prey, contrasts with Stanford's beautiful campus (and, until now, its stadium), which evokes a better, more elegant, simpler, natural, beautiful, and, yes, more small-"r" republican (promoting beautiful simplicity over needless excess), mentality. 

Grand stadiums that once stood like giants in or near farmland (like at Notre Dame) evoke greatness.  They remind one of the roar of a colossal crowd attending a college football game practically in the middle of rural America.  Stanford Stadium evoked (as its memory will continue to evoke) a time when the Bay Area's population was so, so much smaller and yet the support for the team was such that a 90,000-seat stadium was built for its fans to come and cheer in!  But the new Stanford student, and the community around the university, apparently has better things to do.  Being true to your school and supporting its team (and, no, not merely its countless individual sports teams) is a notion apparently too communal, wholesome, outdoorsy, and/or appreciative of competitive athletic excellence, for today's Stanford community to embrace.  So while college football enjoys tremendous popularity nationwide, while people vie for coveted access to the 110,000 tickets for each of Michigan's home games, while TV viewership (taken collectively) and water cooler discussion appear to be at an all-time high, Stanford and its surrounding environs apparently can't see the joy in, or maybe even the motivation behind, the simple shared venture of cheering on one's own team. 

Stanford is throwing in the towel on a great old stadium and, with it, the hope of reclaiming the days when its greatness extended beyond academic reputation.  Storied Stanford Stadium both embodied and showcased that greatness.  While saddened by its unfortunate demise, I bid it a fond farewell. 

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